The More You Know
Updated On: Jun 13, 2016
The Arlington Police Department is currently conducting an investigation into the actions of several officers stemming from allegations that these officers were falsifying traffic stop data. The Arlington Municipal Patrolman’s Association (AMPA) does not condone the alleged actions of these officers. The department’s investigation is ongoing and we encourage members of the police department as well as the public to not rush judgment until the investigation has run full course.
In any incident where there is an allegation of misconduct on the part of an officer, we expect the Department to conduct a thorough and exhaustive investigation to uncover facts that will help to prove or disprove the allegations. The results of these investigations are shared in the interest of transparency and procedural justice. The public we are entrusted to protect demands nothing less from those sworn to protect and serve.
What is often not discussed is the efforts to uncover what lead to the misconduct in terms of departmental shortcomings. Were there policies and procedures in place that discouraged or forbade the misconduct? Was there an underlying culture that encouraged the misconduct even if it was officially “against policy”? In short, what allowed the officers to believe that the misconduct was appropriate or even an option?
The Texas Transportation Code under section 720.002 details prohibitions on traffic-offense quotas. It states in part that a political subdivision may not establish or maintain a formal or informal plan to evaluate, promote, compensate, or discipline a peace officer based upon the officer’s issuance of a predetermined or specified number of any type or combination of types of traffic citations. It further states in part that a political subdivision or an agency may not require or suggest to a peace officer, a justice of the peace or a judge of a county court, statutory county court, municipal court or municipal court of record, that the peace officer is required or expected to issue a predetermined or specified number of any type or combination of types of traffic citation within a specified period.
The Arlington Police Department does not have a written policy or directive that specifically violates the Transportation Code. The question that stands now is whether an “informal quota” system is in place. Here are some points to ponder:
- Patrol Districts publish and often post stats for officers assigned to the district. The posting identifies the name and stats of the officers by shift. Included in the posting are the number of traffic stops and the number of citations for each officer. Other activity such as arrests and answered calls for service are also included. Citation activity is broken down by the number of “hazardous”, “non-hazardous”, and “other” citations written. Supervisors are encouraged to address “low performers” to increase productivity of activities listed in the report including traffic enforcement.
- In 2009, AMPA filed a complaint with the Arlington Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit alleging that certain supervisors had instituted a quota system. In the complaint, supervisors had started to suspend and/or deny an officer’s ability to work part-time positions based upon low stats, including citations and traffic stop activity. It was pointed out that of all the stats reported, officers could only control self initiated activity, traffic stops, and citations. Categories such as dispatched calls for service or arrests were greatly influenced by 911 calls for service and the offenses that officers responded to. As such, supervisors must have had a specified number of traffic stops and citations that had to be written in order to rescind the denial of part-time work.
- This practice of approving and denying part-time employment based upon traffic activity is still occurring. On January 1, 2016, an officer was approved to work an off duty position for a local baseball organization. On the departmental form required to be submitted by officers seeking approval to work off duty was written the terms of the conditional approval. It read,“This authorization is subject to being rescinded if the officer’s work performance regarding traffic enforcement & self-initiated activity do not improve”.
- In 2010, AMPA members questioned emails they were receiving from certain supervisors. In one particular email, a sergeant sent out the citation totals to the officers under his command and stated,“I don’t want to have to start assigning traffic details so please help me out”.
- In a another email titled “Citation Report” sent by separate sergeant, the sergeant explained how citation totals were tracked and what he planed to do with these numbers. The email stated,“ I look at one thing, average activity amongst the shift. The way I figure it, if you are average, you are doing exactly what you are supposed to do. I am not going to tell you to write tickets, or how many for that matter. I will say that when the shift performs at, let’s say, average of 8 per person per week, you should be right there. The Best was to keep this working for you, I think, is if I notify you weekly of the citation activity. I’ll start off individually, and maybe I’ll work towards a group email system”.
- Officers are evaluated on performance annually. It is common practice for supervisors to include citation numbers was part of the evaluations process in certain categories such as “Productivity”.
In the opening of this letter, AMPA specifically stated that we do not condone the alleged actions of the officers accused of falsifying traffic stop data. We are not attempting to offer explanations or excuses on the behalf of any officer or the department. What we are trying to do is accomplish the second task mentioned above of uncovering the shortcomings of the department that would foster a culture that would provide a ripe environment for such misconduct to occur.
Is there a quota system whether it be formal or informal? You decide what number of citations issued by an officer is used by supervisors to justify each performance level of rating on annual evaluations. You decide what number is high enough to keep supervisors from disapproving requests to work off duty employment. You decide what number is high enough to keep an officer’s supervisor from having a conversation with them about their monthly activity.
As officers, we know when we hit that “informal” number by our evaluations, conversations, and the threat of losing off duty jobs.